Query: "A high tuck a-haw" in "Turkey in the Straw"

Peter A. McGraw pmcgraw at LINFIELD.EDU
Mon Jun 14 17:21:41 UTC 2004

I'm finding this thread fascinating.  Not because I have any clues to the
etymology of "tuckahaw," but because I love the word whatever its origin,
and because until now I've never had occasion to question the way I first
heard that line of the song from a 78 or possibly 45 children's record.  It
didn't make particular sense to me, but what I heard was a reference to
"the hives and the hogs."  (Hey, the song was about farming, wasn't it?!)

Peter Mc.

--On Sunday, June 13, 2004 5:26 PM -0400 "Baker, John" <JMB at STRADLEY.COM>

>         One might suppose from context that "roll 'em up," "twist 'em
> up," and "a high tuckahaw" (as it is usually spelled, at least in my
> experience) refer to dance steps, but I don't know if there is any
> evidence to support that.  "Tuckahaw" was used in an 1851 work that I
> found on the Making of America database:
>         <<In 1771, they [sc. the Chickasaws] lived in the centre of a
> large and gently rolling prairie, three miles square.  They obtained
> their water from holes, which dried up in summer.  In this prairie was an
> assemblage of houses one mile and a half long, very narrow and irregular,
> which was divided into seven towns, as follows:         Mellattau--_hat
> and feather_.
>         Chatelau--_copper town_.
>         Chuckafalaya--_long town_.
>         Hickihaw--_stand still_.
>         Chucalissa--_great town_.
>         Tuckahaw--a certain _weed_.
>         Ash-wick-boo-ma--_red grass_.>>
> Albert James Pickett, History of Alabama, and Incidentally of Georgia and
> Mississippi, from the Earliest Period, Vol. I, pp. 147 - 48 (2d ed.
> 1851).  I assume that the italicized words are the translations of the
> towns' names.
>         Admittedly, there is no obvious connection between a Chickasaw
> word, meaning a certain weed and also referring to a Chickasaw town, and
> the word used in "Turkey in the Straw," whose meaning is unknown but
> presumably does not refer to a weed.  I can't help thinking of tobacco, a
> weed whose leaves may be rolled and twisted and which, as an important
> agricultural product, might have some connection to hay and straw.
> However, if the Chickasaws by "tuckahaw" meant "tobacco," then presumably
> Pickett would have written "tobacco" and not "a certain weed."
>         So we are left with three alternatives:  First, that tuckahaw
> refers in some sense to tobacco, even though the Chickasaws used it to
> refer to a different word.  Second, that tuckahaw derives from the
> Chickasaw word but in this instance is used as a nonsense word.  Third,
> and perhaps most likely, that the similarity between the word in the song
> and the Chickasaw word is merely coincidental.
> John Baker
> -----Original Message-----
> From: American Dialect Society [mailto:ADS-L at LISTSERV.UGA.EDU]On Behalf
> Of Gerald Cohen
> Sent: Friday, June 11, 2004 5:45 PM
> Subject: Query: "A high tuck a-haw" in "Turkey in the Straw"
> A colleague has asked me about the meaning of "A high tuck-a-haw" in
> the lyrics of the song "Turkey in the Straw."  Would anyone know?
> The relevant verse is:
>         Turkey in the straw,
>         Turkey in the straw,
>         Roll 'em up and twist 'em up
>         A high tuck a-haw
>         And hit 'em up a tune called
>         Turkey in the Straw.
> Also, what does "Roll 'em up and twist 'em up" refer to?
> Gerald Cohen

Peter A. McGraw       Linfield College        McMinnville, Oregon
******************* pmcgraw at linfield.edu ************************

More information about the Ads-l mailing list